Volunteer Services Abroad Plunket Nurse Molly Dalton from New Zealand at the Tepuka Paunu clinic with Mama Mamatira Patia and her grandchildren Moerai Patia and Metua-Aroha Patia. Photo: SUPPLIED/22062309
With her passion for child health and development, it is no surprise Molly Dalton was a
successful candidate for the Well-Child Trainer assignment in Rarotonga. The
achievement made her the first-ever qualified Early Childhood Nurse/Well-Child
Trainer in the Cook Islands.
Like many experiencing the rippling effects of the
global pandemic, Molly says the lockdown gave her time to assess her current
priorities, which then led to exploring options that would fulfil her desire to
connect with communities.
“I realised, at this point in my life, that the most
valuable resource I could offer was my time. I started volunteering for a
variety of non-profit organisations in Wellington. I enjoyed meeting diverse
groups, and it feels good contributing your time towards a good cause.”
The first time Molly became familiar with Volunteer
Service Abroad (VSA) was in early 2022 when a VSA billboard caught her eye.
“I was already interested in volunteering and
traveling so I Googled VSA as soon as I got home. Amazingly, the first role I
saw on the website was for an Early Childhood Nurse - which description
basically matched the job I had in New Zealand.”
Keen to apply her existing skillset in new
surroundings, Molly took on the opportunity as quickly as she could, “It felt
too serendipitous to ignore, so I immediately applied.”
Soon after, in May 2022, Molly arrived to officially
begin her assignment supporting her partner organisation – the Cook Islands
Child Welfare Association (CICWA), one of the oldest non-profit voluntary
organisations in the Cook Islands.
The association was formed in 1933 by a small group of
women who dedicated their time to helping clinical nurses throughout the wider
community clinics. It is currently the only NGO provider that solely focuses on
children aged under five. The organisation also runs development programmes and
workshops to improve the health and well-being of children and families.
“Having a qualified nurse instigating changes has made
a big difference,” says CICWA Executive Officer, Susan Sadaraka, who confirms
there have already been huge benefits from having Molly onboard.
“Molly has a respectful manner which has helped engage
Child Welfare members to be receptive to any suggested improvements, this has
allowed our organisation to move forward tremendously as a collective unit. The
families also value Molly’s professional advice.”
Susan also commends Molly’s professionalism when
facing challenges, “When the Ministry of Health pulled their public health
nurses for one month and wanted to close our Paunu clinics, Molly worked in the
community providing her services on CICWA’s behalf so ‘Paunu’ could still
operate. This meant the babies were still being seen, and families were
receiving consistent high-quality care.”
In addition to running a capacity-building workshop
for CICWA members and helping coordinate the Child Welfare Biennial Conference
- a big achievement for the organisation, Molly supports the Paunu clinics,
which are staffed by trained volunteers, to improve and deliver clinical
services focusing on health and well-being with more flexibility, knowledge,
and accessibility to better meet the needs of client families.
“I feel lucky to work with CICWA as they’ve given me a
huge amount of freedom in my work,” says Molly, “I feel that I am well on track
to achieving the outcomes of my assignment. But there is also a lot that I can
get involved in and help develop that goes beyond my assignment.”
While Molly admits adjusting to the slower pace of
‘business as usual’ can be a challenge, the reap of the reward, she assures us,
is much greater.
“It’s a huge privilege to talk with parents about
their little ones, how they are growing and developing, and meeting so many
beautiful babies and families. What I have learned here will be invaluable to
my nursing practice back in New Zealand.”
Something that has proven to be just as fulfilling as
the work, is the local community Molly has connected with outside of the
clinic. “I love getting involved in all the activities in Rarotonga. There is
so much to do here, and lots of opportunities to be active. I have most enjoyed
learning Cook Island dancing, which I do every week. The people and the
friendships I’ve fostered will be the thing I’ll remember forever.”
With the ongoing support of in-country VSA staff, a
caring local community, and the ongoing dedication from the CICWA team, it is
certain Molly’s time on assignment will ensure the clinic sustains a successful
future providing professional healthcare and well-being services to young
families across the Cook Islands.